Some Thoughts on Media and Self-Image

Photo by  Kelly Sikkema  on  Unsplash

I spoke to the parents of our youth and kidmin ministries about a month ago on social media and how it forms every aspect of their kids’ lives. It was a great night and I have been processing many of the comments and questions that came out of that evening and then today I came across the following quote from Karamo Brown (from Queer Eye on Netflix).

The first time I realized my skin tone was “bad” was when I was playing Street Fighter... While 99 percent of the characters were white or Asian, all their evil twins were darker in skin tone. It was hard for me to play the game, because the characters were supposed to be twins ... yet the evil ones resembled black and Latino men.
— Karamo Brown: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope

One of the questions that came out of this night was around whether or not media played a significant factor in the self-esteem on guys in particular. Karamo continues to share his thoughts:

One night after playing, I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered, I’m dark, just like the twins. Does that mean I’m evil? ...

I truly started to think, There is no way I can be a good guy in life. I can’t be the hero; I can only be the bad guy.... Of, course, it was a warped way of thinking, but at that point, the subliminal messaging from my favorite game had really started to affect my mind.
— Karamo Brown

I truly believe that as parents and leaders of children and youth we need to be reafirming who Christ made them to be. Media will always be a huge influencer in their life, but we can be the ones to help correct how they feel about themselves.

How did/has media made you question your identity?


I have had some requests regarding what books I have been reading lately. I made a goal of reading one hundred books (#100BookChallenge is the hashtag I have been using), this year. I am almost at a quarter of the year and I am a couple books behind, but I have a couple on the go as we speak. 

Here is my completed list as of Monday, April 11, 2016 

1. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (Book Review)

2. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof (Book Review)

3. Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World by Rich Wilkerson 

We never stop to consider that the “us” we’re trying to get them to like isn’t really “us” at all. They are imposters, characters we’re playing. We don’t realize that if we wear the mask for too long, we might never be able to take it off
— Sandcastle Kings
In order to convey Jesus’ love to others, we must be willing to be the voice of Jesus and speak the Word of God to people. As we do this, we will fully experience the compassion of Jesus flowing through us.
— Judah Smith

6. In The Skin Of A Lion - Michael Ondaatje 

7. H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. - Brad Lomenick 

This is one of the best leadership books I have read for ministry leaders. We have introduced it into our summer staff reading list as a result of its practical suggestions to implement the leadership principles it covers. (Blog Post: Maintaining Faith Habits)

8. Win Every Week: How to Help Every Parent and Every Small Group Leader Win Every Week (You Lead Series Book 1) by Reggie Joiner

Most parents and leaders don’t want more information—they want better information. Most parents and leaders don’t want more responsibility—they want deeper relationships.
— Reggie Joiner
Do young people feel like they can ask big and tough questions about God in our community? And if not, how can we create more safe places so that they can? So if you know a young person whose big questions about God are causing them to drift from their faith, then I would say, how do you make sure they stay in the conversation? Whether it’s in small group, whether that’s in ongoing one-on-one mentoring with an adult at your church … because if we don’t provide venues for conversation to happen, then they’re going to have conversations in other places and come to conclusions we wish they wouldn’t come to.
— Carey Nieuwhof
Ultimately, the key to doing your best work in the least amount of time is to find those times that you do specific activities best, and do as much of those activities in that time period as possible.
— Claire Diaz-Ortiz
Moment Making is not for the weak at heart. Sometimes our moments crash and burn at the speed of a fighter jet plummeting toward earth in a fireball. At that velocity, sometimes there is nothing else you can do besides eject, but if you can hold on, sometimes you are presented with an even more incredible moment than what you thought was possible.
— Carlos Whittaker
The perfect equilibrium of two different ways of looking at the world: the need to talk about yourself, compared with the need to let people talk about what was happening around them. One could never have existed without the other. That balance, or battle, had created Twitter. A tool that could be used by corporate titans and teens, by celebrities and nobodies, by government officials and revolutionaries. A place where people with fundamentally different views of the world, like Jack and Ev, could converse.
— Nick Bilton
Ego affected them all: Noah, Jack, Ev, and Biz. They were all driven by it. For Noah ego became a tool for reflection, for trying to understand whom he had wronged in the past and how he could be a better person in the future. For Jack it had the opposite effect, causing him to obsess over who had wronged him in the past and how he could return to the spotlight in the future. And what better way to achieve this goal than to eclipse other people’s egos?
— Nick Bilton


This is a companion book to number 9 on this list. It is well worth the read and I would recommend ministry leaders to read this and then work through the volunteer version as a team. 

18. The Book of Matthew - The Bible

19. How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living - Rob Bell

20. Courageous Leadership: Field-Tested Strategy for the 360° Leader - Bill Hybels 

Please don’t miss this. If God has given you a kingdom vision, if you see it clearly and feel it deeply, you had better take responsibility for it. You had better give your life to it. That’s why God made you a leader. That’s your unique calling. That’s what you and I will be held accountable for someday.
— Bill Hybels

21. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

22. Lead Small by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas 

23. Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong
By Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, Elle Campbell 

(Blog Post: Someone & Somewhere)

24. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian

Like Job’s friends, we prefer the safety of “if-then” conditionality. Suffering, however, often serves as an unwanted reminder that reality does not operate according to our preferences.
— Tullian Tchivdjian

25. by Brett Ullman

The noisy messages that are making up our choices, values, and belief systems allow us to do one thing very well—hide.
— Brett Ullman

What are you reading? 

What books would you recommend I read in the next few months?

I would love to hear what books have changed your leadership style, or have just made your life better for reading them. Leave me a note below, or send me a tweet.

Creativity, What's That?

The latest installment of my online book club was “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame) and the question was raised...

What is creativity?

Talk about a question with limitless possibilities. It got me thinking about how I defined creativity. For me, creativity comes down to chasing an idea that inspires me and then endlessly pursuing the final product that I have envisioned in my head. I have to say this process is frustrating, filled with anxiety, and has endless amounts of hope, that is if you can get over the first two feelings. In the book, there is a great paragraph describing the fear within us that comes with the creative process. 

…You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money…
— Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert


I have found that my tendency is recreation of the same idea numerous times during the process and, many times, one or more of those done-over thoughts are what causes me to change my idea. That is the kicker though – It’s YOUR idea. It’s YOUR dream. It’s YOUR passion. No one else has ownership over your creativity, your creative process, or how you envision the final product in your mind. Sure, people may not like it, but that is not the point. Elizabeth Gilbert says this about what we should focus on:

So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
— Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The chance to create something from nothing, and the process with it, is something I truly enjoy. I love looking at the blank screen and thinking, “What will this kidmin ad look like? How will we bring this Bible story to life? How can I visually portray the vision I have for my ministry and the goals we have for our kids?” Those are the questions that get me going, but again fear is always there. Fear, at times, is the best motivator and the book points out that fear cannot be removed from the creative process.

“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”
— Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Another personal revelation was the conversation about ideas that leave us and get produced by someone else. So many times I will have an idea, not write it down, and then suffer the ad-man conundrum of not being able to remember my “brilliant” idea. Creativity comes and goes, inspiration does the same thing, and, if we don’t record it, we can't expect to be able to recreate the moment that caused the inspiration that led to the creative spark within us to ignite. 

This stuck with me – creativity is ignition of a moment of influence or inspiration.

I loved this question from the book club.

Creativity can be as simple as enjoying a great cup of coffee, exploring the city with my wife, or simply quietly listening to music. Those are the moments when my creative spark tends to go off the most. Being aware of the moments in your routine that reduce the fear and increase the creative process is important. You become aware of the process and you can corner your creativity instead of sitting back and hoping an idea falls into your lap (or your coffee cup). 

To me, this is creativity.

What is creativity to you? 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
CDN$ 26.65
By Elizabeth Gilbert

The Screwtape Letters - A Challenge To The Nothings In Life

The third book I have read in my 100 book challenge for this year was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It has been years since I last read this classic and I found that passages that I highlighted in years past were still pertinent to my spiritual growth. I also found numerous others that hit home or had relevance in some of my other projects on the go currently. 

I love the following quote: 

No doubt he must very soon realize that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based... All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.
— C.S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letters | pg. 38

I cannot even fathom how much time I wasted in my youth trying to be liked or fit in with a group of people. In the end you end up losing your true self and sometimes it takes years to get back to that person. That quote provided some great journalling time.

I also found that the whole conversation about nothing in the book provided some great insight into a conversation I had this week at church. I kept coming back to those little moments in the day that just seem to disappear into the depths of YouTube videos and Google searches. 

Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.
— C.S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letters | pg. 47

 This book is a classic and I wish I hadn't put it on my shelf for as long as I did. Here are a few questions that I had after reading this again:

What nothings are in your life and stealing away your time?
Who are you pretending to be and what are you running away from? 

I would love to hear your thoughts on those two questions in the comments below. 

Book Review - Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

My first read of 2016 caused tears of joy, tears of sadness, and moments of reflection that I have never encountered while reading a book... ever. “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson caused a whole array of outward emotions, including two very embarrassing laugh-out-loud moments. One was whilst riding a busy train home during rush hour and the other woke an elderly woman as we used the laundromat. To me, those moments sum up this book. It makes you uncomfortable, but you just cannot help but laugh at the wit and writing of Jenny Lawson. 

This book is a reflective look at the battle the author has gone through, specifically her struggle with mental illness and how uses storytelling to provide clarity as she explains how she lives and functions day-to-day with the emotions, fears, and triumphs that come from her day-to-day. She makes statements that I wish people would take to heart about how much energy it takes just to get through a day sometimes. 

Every mental illness is different because every person is different...You have to figure out how to survive depression, which is really not easy because when you’re depressed you’re more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life and your brain is lying to you and you feel unworthy of the time and energy (which you often don’t even have) needed to get help.
— pg. 132

So often within the church, we assume that a quick prayer will cure all mental illness, but that is so far from the truth. She nailed it with the following quote.

It’s not your fault if the medication or therapy you’re given to treat your mental illness doesn’t work perfectly, or it worked for a while and then stopped working. You aren’t a math problem . You’re a person.
— pg. 132

As I read through the book, there were so many times that I felt as if this book fell into my lap to help me wrestle through so many questions that I have had over the last decade of my life that I have struggled to understand. God created me with ADHD, and that means that I process emotions and situations differently than others. It doesn’t make me less – it just makes me special.

I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.
— pg. 239

I cannot even tell you the amount of times that I fight to put a smile on my face even if I am having the best day. Something within me just does not want to do it. I should be able to smile or feel happy, but inside I feel empty and sad. I don't say that to make anyone feel sorry for me, but I just wish I could understand sometimes what is going on inside of my head. 

When I look at my life I see high-water marks of happiness and I see the lower places where I had to convince myself that suicide wasn’t an answer. And in between I see my life. I see that the sadness and tragedy in my life made the euphoria and delicious ecstasy that much more sweet. I see that stretching out my soul to feel every inch of horrific depression gave me more room to grow and enjoy the beauty of life that others might not ever appreciate. I see that there is dust in the air that will eventually settle onto the floor to be swept out the door as a nuisance, but before that, for one brilliant moment I see the dust motes catch sunlight and sparkle and dance like stardust. I see the beginning and the end of all things. I see my life. It is beautifully ugly and tarnished in just the right way. It sparkles with debris. There is wonder and joy in the simplest of things.
— pg. 265

Life is amazing and I see how the downtimes have shaped who  I am. This book does a wonderful job of allowing you to see your own downtimes not as a weight holding you back, but as a series of events and emotions that bring clarity to the present and direction to your future.  

Sometimes being crazy is a demon. And sometimes the demon is me. And I visit quiet sidewalks and loud parties and dark movies, and a small demon looks out at the world with me. Sometimes it sleeps. Sometimes it plays. Sometimes it laughs with me. Sometimes it tries to kill me. But it’s always with me. I suppose we’re all possessed in some way. Some of us with dependence on pills or wine. Others through sex or gambling. Some of us through self-destruction or anger or fear. And some of us just carry around our tiny demon as he wreaks havoc in our mind, tearing open old dusty trunks of bad memories and leaving the remnants spread everywhere. Wearing the skins of people we’ve hurt. Wearing the skins of people we’ve loved. And sometimes, when it’s worst, wearing our skins.
— pg. 130

I remember sharing this quote with Amy and having a great conversation with her about how I have had trouble in the past differentiating emotions and explaining how I feel to others. It is something that frustrates me deeply because I see when it frustrates others and that bothers me, too. It is a vicious circle through which Amy has been my rock. This book has been so helpful as I look at my past struggles and my own insecurities. I have told so many people to read this book whether or not they struggle with mental illness because it illuminates the everyday life of someone who does struggle. 

Rated 5/5